The autumn leaves are falling like rain. Although my neighbors are all barbarians and you, you are a thousand miles away, there are always two cups at my table.

T’ang Dynasty poem

Ten thousand flowers in spring, the moon in autumn, a cool breeze in summer, snow in winter. If your mind isn't clouded by unnecessary things, this is the best season of your life.

~ Wu-men ~


Monday, December 28, 2015

Becoming Antifragile

I've mentioned one of my favorite authors, Nassim Taleb and his book, Anti-fragile several times.

An awful lot of things are fragile: they take a blow and break. Some things are robust: they get hit and no worse for wear. A few things are antifragile: they thrive on getting knocked around.

I think that we ourselves, should strive to become antifragile.

The excellent Art of Manliness blog has had several posts on anti fragility. Below is an excerpt from one of them. The full post may be read here. Enjoy.

What’s the opposite of a person or organization that’s fragile?
If you ask most people this question, they’ll likely say “robust” or “resilient.” But philosopher Nassim Nicholas Taleb would say that’s not the right answer.
He argues that if fragile items break when exposed to stress, something that’s the opposite of fragile wouldn’t simply not break (thus staying the same) when put under pressure; rather, it should actually get stronger.
We don’t really have a word to describe such a person or organization, so Taleb created one: antifragile.
In his book, Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder, Taleb convincingly argues that this powerful quality is essential for businesses, governments, and even individuals that wish to thrive in an increasingly complex and volatile world.
If you want to succeed and dominate, to separate yourself from the pack and become the last man standing in any area of life, it’s no longer enough to bounce back from adversity and volatility – to simply be resilient. You have to bounce back stronger and better. You have to become antifragile.

Surviving and Thriving in a Whirlwind of Volatility

First, some background.

Back in 2007, Taleb popularized the idea of “Black Swans” in his book of the same name. In a nutshell, a Black Swan is an event (either positive or negative) “that comes as a surprise, has a major effect, and is often inappropriately rationalized after the fact with the benefit of hindsight.”

The mortgage crisis of 2008 was a Black Swan event, as were both World Wars. Hardly anyone predicted them, they all had huge impacts on history, and they all seemed utterly predictable in hindsight.

Many folks walked away from reading The Black Swan with this takeaway: “Sh** happens, so don’t bother trying to predict things.” But as Taleb recently tweeted, that’s the conclusion “imbeciles” reach (one of the best parts of Taleb’s writing is that he doesn’t mince words).

Rather, the main message of the book is this: “Yes, sh** happens. The trick is to put yourself in a position to survive and even thrive when it does.”

In his most recent book, Antifragile, Taleb offers some simple heuristics to help businesses and individuals thrive in a life swirling with volatility. Before he does that, though, Taleb makes the case that people/systems/organizations/things/ideas can be described in one of three ways: fragile, resilient, or antifragile.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Relaxed Movement in Aikido

When watching old aikido videos, I get the sense that Shioda Sensei seemed to move at a different speed than everyone else. He moved at normal speed and seemed to have had some frames removed from the film.

Koichi Tohei Sensei, on the other hand strikes me quite differently. It's not that he seems to move more quickly than those around him; it's that he seems so relaxed. It's like he's just moving around, doing what he's doing, almost unaware that people are hanging on to him ... for a short time.

Here he is below. Enjoy.


Friday, December 18, 2015

The Tang Dynasty Poems, #58: A SONG OF WHEEL TOWER IN FAREWELL TO GENERAL FENG OF THE WESTERN EXPEDITION

The Tang Dynasty was a high point of culture in ancient China. Especially esteemed were poems. There was no home coming or leave taking; no event too small to not be commemorated with a poem.

Some of the best poems of that period have been collected into an anthology known as The 300 Tang Dynasty Poems. A online version of the anthology may be found here.  Today we have #58.


A SONG OF WHEEL TOWER IN FAREWELL TO GENERAL
FENG OF THE WESTERN EXPEDITION

On Wheel Tower parapets night-bugles are blowing,
Though the flag at the northern end hangs limp.
Scouts, in the darkness, are passing Quli,
Where, west of the Hill of Gold, the Tartar chieftain has halted
We can see, from the look-out, the dust and black smoke
Where Chinese troops are camping, north of Wheel Tower.
...Our flags now beckon the General farther west-
With bugles in the dawn he rouses his Grand Army;
Drums like a tempest pound on four sides
And the Yin Mountains shake with the shouts of ten thousand;
Clouds and the war-wind whirl up in a point
Over fields where grass-roots will tighten around white bones;
In the Dagger River mist, through a biting wind,
Horseshoes, at the Sand Mouth line, break on icy boulders.
...Our General endures every pain, every hardship,
Commanded to settle the dust along the border.
We have read, in the Green Books, tales of old days-
But here we behold a living man, mightier than the dead.
 

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Styles of Execution in Kyohushin Karate

Over at the Martial Way blog, there was a very nice article about different predominate styles of fighting by top Kyokushin karateka. The post is accompanied by many very interesting videos of top fighters.

An excerpt from the post is below. The full article with the videos my be found here. Enjoy!

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Wednesday, December 09, 2015

Kokodo Jujutsu

Daito Ryu Aikijujutsu was not only the mother of Aikido, it has since given birth to many other styles of jujutsu. Among them is Hakko Ryu. Hakko Ryu in turn has given birth to several derivatives, including Kokodo jujutsu. Below is a video of a Kokodo jujutsu demonstration.


Sunday, December 06, 2015

Nito Shinkage Ryu Kusarigama Jutsu

The Kusarigama is a sort of one hand sickle with a chain and either a blade or metal ball on the end. For safety's sake, in this video, the chain and ball had been replaced by a cord an soft ball.


Thursday, December 03, 2015

Life in Tokugawa Japan

Shogun, by James Clavell is one of my favorite books. It's historical fiction based upon the historical Ieyasu Tokugawa who seized power in Japan about the year 1600 and make himself Shogun.

The story centers around a shipwrecked Englishman who really existed and whose name was Will Adams.

The Tokugawa Shogunate, which controlled Japan for some 200 years had an enormous impact on the society and the Japan that was opened to the world in the late 19th century.

Below is a documentary on life in Tokugawa Japan. I am sure that you will find it as interesting as I have.






Tuesday, November 24, 2015

The Aikido of Hiroshi Isoyama

Hiroshi Isoyama has been training in Aikido since he was twelve. He's nearly 80 now.

He is known for his aggressive style and was a great influence on Steven Seagal, which you can easily see in the video below.

As with most Aikido Demonstrations, I wish the Uke had been a little less compliant, but the breakfalls are breathtaking.

Enjoy.



Saturday, November 21, 2015

The 48 Laws of Power, #15: Crush Your Enemy Totally

One of my favorite books on strategy is The 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene and Joost Elffers.  Where The Art of War, by Sun Tzu is written as an overview of the whole topic of strategy, seeking to provide an overall understanding of the subject; and The 36 Strategies tries to impart the knack of strategic thinking through 36 maxims related to well known Chinese folk stories, Mr. Greene focuses on how we influence and manipulate one another, ie "power".

Mr. Greene draws from both Eastern and Western history and literature as his source material. Sun Tzu and Machiavelli as cited as much as wonderful stories of famous con men. Among my favorites is about a scrap metal dealer thinking he bought the Eiffel Tower.

Each of the 48 Laws carries many examples, along with counter examples where it is appropriate that they be noted, and even reversals.

It is a very thorough study of the subject and the hardback version is beautifully produced.

One of the things I admire about Greene is that he not only studied strategy, he applied what he learned to his own situation and prospered.

All great leaders since Moses have known that a feared enemy must be crushed completely. Sometimes they have learned this the hard way. If one ember is left alight, no matter how dimly it smolders, a fire will eventually break out. More is lost through stopping halfway than through total annihilation. The enemy will recover, and will seek revenge. Crush him, not only in body but in spirit.


Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Improve Your Martial Arts Practice Every Day

Below is an excerpt from another excellent article at The Art of Manliness. The full article may be read here.

It’s happened to all of us. You have a “come to Jesus” moment and decide you need to make changes in your life. Maybe you need to drop a few pounds (or more), want to pay off some debt, or desperately long to quit wasting time on the internet. So you start planning and scheming. You take to your journal and write out a bold strategy on how you’re going to tackle your quest for self-improvement. You set big, hairy SMART goals with firm deadlines. You download the apps and buy the gear that will help you reach your objectives. You feel that telltale rush that comes with believing you’re turning over a new leaf, and indeed, the first few days go great. “This time,” you tell yourself, “this time is different.” But then… You had a long day at work, you just can’t make it to the gym, and by golly, eating an entire pizza would really make you feel better. Or an unexpected expense comes up, and your bank account dips back into the red. Or you decide you’ve been doing really well with being focused, so what’s a few minutes of aimless web surfing going to do? Within a matter of days, your fiery ambition to change yourself is extinguished. That audacious, airtight plan in your journal? You don’t even look at it again because along with your goal to lose weight, your daily journaling goal has also met an untimely demise. And so you’re back to where you started, only even worse off than before. Because now you’re not just an overweight, in debt, and easily distracted man, you’re an overweight, in debt, and easily distracted man who has failed at not being overweight, in debt, or easily distracted. The sting of failure can feel like an existential gut punch. But time heals all wounds. Nature has — for better and worse — blessed us with terrible memories, so we forget how crappy we felt when we failed in our last attempt to radically improve ourselves. Thus, six months later that itch to change yourself returns, and the whole scenario plays itself out again, like some Napoleon Hill, Think and Grow Rich-infused version of Groundhog Day. Getting Off the Roller Coaster of Personal Development Our quest to become better often feels like a roller coaster ride with its proverbial ups and downs. By the time you’re headed down Self-Improvement Mountain for the twentieth time, you’re vomiting out the side of your cart in self-disgust, cursing yourself that you once again bought a ticket to ride. Why are our attempts to better ourselves usually so uneven, and why do they so frequently end in failure? There are a few reasons: Focusing on the big goal overwhelms us into inaction. It’s an article of faith in the world of personal development that you have to make big, Empire State goals. You don’t just want to dominate in your own life — you want to dominate the world. And so you draw up plans for leaving behind the 99% of schmos out there, and becoming part of the extraordinary 1% — not necessarily as measured in pure wealth, but in passion, fitness, financial independence, and number of Machu Picchu pics in your Instagram feed. But the enormity of your goals ends up overwhelming you into inaction. What we moderns call “stress” would be better termed “fear”; the physiological reaction is the same in both emotions. A big, audacious goal looks to the brain just like a saber-toothed tiger stalking us in the woods, and the idea of paying off $100K in student loan debt seems so impossible that it’s actually scary. And when our brain encounters scary, the old amygdala kicks into fight-flight-freeze mode, and you assume the position of deer-stuck-in-headlights. Big, giant goals can be awe-inspiring. But like many awe-inspiring things — a lion, a black hole, the Grand Canyon — they can also swallow you whole. We think a magic bullet will save us. Let’s say that we’re able to overcome the torpor-inducing effects of aiming for radical personal change, and we start taking action towards achieving our goals. As humans are wont to do, instead of just getting right to work doing the boring, mundane, time-tested things that will bring success, we typically start looking for “hacks” that will get us the results we want as fast as possible and with as little work as possible. We want that magic bullet that will allow us to hit our target right in the bulls-eye with just one shot. The danger of looking for a magic bullet is that you end up spending all your time searching for it instead of actually doing the work that needs to be done. You scroll through countless blog articles on productivity, in hopes of discovering that one tip that will make you superhumanly efficient. You listen to podcast after podcast from people who earn their living telling people how to make money online, hoping one day you’ll hear an insight that will unlock your businesses’ potential, so you too can make your living online, telling other people how to make a living online. You research and find the perfect gratitude journal so you can be more zen. The insidious thing about searching for magic bullets is that you feel like you’re doing something to reach your goals when in fact you’re doing nothing. Magic bullet hunting is masturbatory self-improvement. All the pleasure, without the production of metaphorical progeny. Read more at: http://tr.im/W5Flm
Get 1% Better Every Day: The Kaizen Way to Self-Improvement
Brett and Kate McKay
vintage man chopping giant tree
It’s happened to all of us.
You have a “come to Jesus” moment and decide you need to make changes in your life. Maybe you need to drop a few pounds (or more), want to pay off some debt, or desperately long to quit wasting time on the internet.
So you start planning and scheming.
You take to your journal and write out a bold strategy on how you’re going to tackle your quest for self-improvement. You set big, hairy SMART goals with firm deadlines. You download the apps and buy the gear that will help you reach your objectives.
You feel that telltale rush that comes with believing you’re turning over a new leaf, and indeed, the first few days go great. “This time,” you tell yourself, “this time is different.”
But then…
You had a long day at work, you just can’t make it to the gym, and by golly, eating an entire pizza would really make you feel better.
Or an unexpected expense comes up, and your bank account dips back into the red.
Or you decide you’ve been doing really well with being focused, so what’s a few minutes of aimless web surfing going to do?
Within a matter of days, your fiery ambition to change yourself is extinguished. That audacious, airtight plan in your journal? You don’t even look at it again because along with your goal to lose weight, your daily journaling goal has also met an untimely demise.
And so you’re back to where you started, only even worse off than before. Because now you’re not just an overweight, in debt, and easily distracted man, you’re an overweight, in debt, and easily distracted man who has failed at not being overweight, in debt, or easily distracted. The sting of failure can feel like an existential gut punch.
But time heals all wounds. Nature has — for better and worse — blessed us with terrible memories, so we forget how crappy we felt when we failed in our last attempt to radically improve ourselves.
Thus, six months later that itch to change yourself returns, and the whole scenario plays itself out again, like some Napoleon Hill, Think and Grow Rich-infused version of Groundhog Day.

Getting Off the Roller Coaster of Personal Development

Our quest to become better often feels like a roller coaster ride with its proverbial ups and downs. By the time you’re headed down Self-Improvement Mountain for the twentieth time, you’re vomiting out the side of your cart in self-disgust, cursing yourself that you once again bought a ticket to ride.
Why are our attempts to better ourselves usually so uneven, and why do they so frequently end in failure? There are a few reasons:
Focusing on the big goal overwhelms us into inaction. It’s an article of faith in the world of personal development that you have to make big, Empire State goals. You don’t just want to dominate in your own life — you want to dominate the world.
And so you draw up plans for leaving behind the 99% of schmos out there, and becoming part of the extraordinary 1% — not necessarily as measured in pure wealth, but in passion, fitness, financial independence, and number of Machu Picchu pics in your Instagram feed.
But the enormity of your goals ends up overwhelming you into inaction. What we moderns call “stress” would be better termed “fear”; the physiological reaction is the same in both emotions. A big, audacious goal looks to the brain just like a saber-toothed tiger stalking us in the woods, and the idea of paying off $100K in student loan debt seems so impossible that it’s actually scary. And when our brain encounters scary, the old amygdala kicks into fight-flight-freeze mode, and you assume the position of deer-stuck-in-headlights.
Big, giant goals can be awe-inspiring. But like many awe-inspiring things — a lion, a black hole, the Grand Canyon — they can also swallow you whole.
We think a magic bullet will save us. Let’s say that we’re able to overcome the torpor-inducing effects of aiming for radical personal change, and we start taking action towards achieving our goals. As humans are wont to do, instead of just getting right to work doing the boring, mundane, time-tested things that will bring success, we typically start looking for “hacks” that will get us the results we want as fast as possible and with as little work as possible. We want that magic bullet that will allow us to hit our target right in the bulls-eye with just one shot.
The danger of looking for a magic bullet is that you end up spending all your time searching for it instead of actually doing the work that needs to be done. You scroll through countless blog articles on productivity, in hopes of discovering that one tip that will make you superhumanly efficient. You listen to podcast after podcast from people who earn their living telling people how to make money online, hoping one day you’ll hear an insight that will unlock your businesses’ potential, so you too can make your living online, telling other people how to make a living online. You research and find the perfect gratitude journal so you can be more zen.
The insidious thing about searching for magic bullets is that you feel like you’re doing something to reach your goals when in fact you’re doing nothing. Magic bullet hunting is masturbatory self-improvement. All the pleasure, without the production of metaphorical progeny.
vintage 1927 Bill Jones motivational poster proud of your record
We stop doing the things that helped us improve in the first place. Okay. So let’s say you don’t let the bigness of your goal overwhelm you, and you’re not a chump magic bullet hunter either.
You get to work. Slowly but surely you start seeing results. You lose five pounds. You whittle $200 off your debt. You meditate for 20 minutes a day for a whole week.
You’re having success!
But in our personal backslapping, we would do well to heed Napoleon’s warning: “The greatest danger occurs at the moment of victory.”
There’s a tendency for folks to view self-improvement as a destination. They think that once you reach your goal, you’re done. You can take it easy. So when these folks start having some success and things start getting better in their lives, they stop doing the things that got them to that point. And so they start backsliding.
I fell into this trap when I was first trying to get a handle on my depression. I’d take some proactive steps to leash my black dog — meditate, write in my journal, get outside, etc. As soon as I started to feel better, I’d think, “Hey! I beat it this time! I’m cured!” So I let up. I stopped doing the things that helped me feel better in the first place. And of course, I went back to feeling terrible.
Self-improvement isn’t a destination. You’re never done. Even if you have some success, if you want to maintain it, you have to keep doing the things you were doing that got you that success in the first place.

The Kaizen Effect: Get 1% Better Each Day

“Little strokes fell great oaks.” –Benjamin Franklin
It’s time to get off the self-improvement roller coaster.

To do so, we’re going to embrace the philosophy of small, continuous improvement.
It’s called Kaizen. It sounds like a mystical Japanese philosophy passed down by wise, bearded sages who lived in secret caves.

The reality is that it was developed by Depression-era American business management theorists in order to build the arsenal of democracy that helped the U.S. win World War II. Instead of telling companies to make radical, drastic changes to their business infrastructure and processes, these management theorists exhorted them to make continuous improvements in small ways. A manual created by the U.S. government to help companies implement this business philosophy urged factory supervisors to “look for hundreds of small things you can improve. Don’t try to plan a whole new department layout — or go after a big installation of new equipment. There isn’t time for these major items. Look for improvements on existing jobs with your present equipment.”

After America and its allies had defeated Japan and Germany with the weaponry produced by plants using the small, continuous improvement philosophy, America introduced the concept to Japanese factories to help revitalize their economy. The Japanese took to the idea of small, continual improvement right away and gave it a name: Kaizen — Japanese for continuous improvement.

While Japanese companies embraced this American idea of small, continuous improvement, American companies, in an act of collective amnesia, forgot all about it. Instead, “radical innovation” became the watchword in American business. Using Kaizen, Japanese auto companies like Toyota slowly but surely began to outperform American automakers during the 1970s and 1980s. In response, American companies started asking Japanese companies to teach them about a business philosophy American companies had originally taught the Japanese. Go figure.

It’s happened to all of us. You have a “come to Jesus” moment and decide you need to make changes in your life. Maybe you need to drop a few pounds (or more), want to pay off some debt, or desperately long to quit wasting time on the internet. So you start planning and scheming. You take to your journal and write out a bold strategy on how you’re going to tackle your quest for self-improvement. You set big, hairy SMART goals with firm deadlines. You download the apps and buy the gear that will help you reach your objectives. You feel that telltale rush that comes with believing you’re turning over a new leaf, and indeed, the first few days go great. “This time,” you tell yourself, “this time is different.” But then… You had a long day at work, you just can’t make it to the gym, and by golly, eating an entire pizza would really make you feel better. Or an unexpected expense comes up, and your bank account dips back into the red. Or you decide you’ve been doing really well with being focused, so what’s a few minutes of aimless web surfing going to do? Within a matter of days, your fiery ambition to change yourself is extinguished. That audacious, airtight plan in your journal? You don’t even look at it again because along with your goal to lose weight, your daily journaling goal has also met an untimely demise. And so you’re back to where you started, only even worse off than before. Because now you’re not just an overweight, in debt, and easily distracted man, you’re an overweight, in debt, and easily distracted man who has failed at not being overweight, in debt, or easily distracted. The sting of failure can feel like an existential gut punch. But time heals all wounds. Nature has — for better and worse — blessed us with terrible memories, so we forget how crappy we felt when we failed in our last attempt to radically improve ourselves. Thus, six months later that itch to change yourself returns, and the whole scenario plays itself out again, like some Napoleon Hill, Think and Grow Rich-infused version of Groundhog Day. Getting Off the Roller Coaster of Personal Development Our quest to become better often feels like a roller coaster ride with its proverbial ups and downs. By the time you’re headed down Self-Improvement Mountain for the twentieth time, you’re vomiting out the side of your cart in self-disgust, cursing yourself that you once again bought a ticket to ride. Why are our attempts to better ourselves usually so uneven, and why do they so frequently end in failure? There are a few reasons: Focusing on the big goal overwhelms us into inaction. It’s an article of faith in the world of personal development that you have to make big, Empire State goals. You don’t just want to dominate in your own life — you want to dominate the world. And so you draw up plans for leaving behind the 99% of schmos out there, and becoming part of the extraordinary 1% — not necessarily as measured in pure wealth, but in passion, fitness, financial independence, and number of Machu Picchu pics in your Instagram feed. But the enormity of your goals ends up overwhelming you into inaction. What we moderns call “stress” would be better termed “fear”; the physiological reaction is the same in both emotions. A big, audacious goal looks to the brain just like a saber-toothed tiger stalking us in the woods, and the idea of paying off $100K in student loan debt seems so impossible that it’s actually scary. And when our brain encounters scary, the old amygdala kicks into fight-flight-freeze mode, and you assume the position of deer-stuck-in-headlights. Big, giant goals can be awe-inspiring. But like many awe-inspiring things — a lion, a black hole, the Grand Canyon — they can also swallow you whole. We think a magic bullet will save us. Let’s say that we’re able to overcome the torpor-inducing effects of aiming for radical personal change, and we start taking action towards achieving our goals. As humans are wont to do, instead of just getting right to work doing the boring, mundane, time-tested things that will bring success, we typically start looking for “hacks” that will get us the results we want as fast as possible and with as little work as possible. We want that magic bullet that will allow us to hit our target right in the bulls-eye with just one shot. The danger of looking for a magic bullet is that you end up spending all your time searching for it instead of actually doing the work that needs to be done. You scroll through countless blog articles on productivity, in hopes of discovering that one tip that will make you superhumanly efficient. You listen to podcast after podcast from people who earn their living telling people how to make money online, hoping one day you’ll hear an insight that will unlock your businesses’ potential, so you too can make your living online, telling other people how to make a living online. You research and find the perfect gratitude journal so you can be more zen. The insidious thing about searching for magic bullets is that you feel like you’re doing something to reach your goals when in fact you’re doing nothing. Magic bullet hunting is masturbatory self-improvement. All the pleasure, without the production of metaphorical progeny. Read more at: http://tr.im/W5Flm
It’s happened to all of us. You have a “come to Jesus” moment and decide you need to make changes in your life. Maybe you need to drop a few pounds (or more), want to pay off some debt, or desperately long to quit wasting time on the internet. So you start planning and scheming. You take to your journal and write out a bold strategy on how you’re going to tackle your quest for self-improvement. You set big, hairy SMART goals with firm deadlines. You download the apps and buy the gear that will help you reach your objectives. You feel that telltale rush that comes with believing you’re turning over a new leaf, and indeed, the first few days go great. “This time,” you tell yourself, “this time is different.” But then… You had a long day at work, you just can’t make it to the gym, and by golly, eating an entire pizza would really make you feel better. Or an unexpected expense comes up, and your bank account dips back into the red. Or you decide you’ve been doing really well with being focused, so what’s a few minutes of aimless web surfing going to do? Within a matter of days, your fiery ambition to change yourself is extinguished. That audacious, airtight plan in your journal? You don’t even look at it again because along with your goal to lose weight, your daily journaling goal has also met an untimely demise. And so you’re back to where you started, only even worse off than before. Because now you’re not just an overweight, in debt, and easily distracted man, you’re an overweight, in debt, and easily distracted man who has failed at not being overweight, in debt, or easily distracted. The sting of failure can feel like an existential gut punch. But time heals all wounds. Nature has — for better and worse — blessed us with terrible memories, so we forget how crappy we felt when we failed in our last attempt to radically improve ourselves. Thus, six months later that itch to change yourself returns, and the whole scenario plays itself out again, like some Napoleon Hill, Think and Grow Rich-infused version of Groundhog Day. Getting Off the Roller Coaster of Personal Development Our quest to become better often feels like a roller coaster ride with its proverbial ups and downs. By the time you’re headed down Self-Improvement Mountain for the twentieth time, you’re vomiting out the side of your cart in self-disgust, cursing yourself that you once again bought a ticket to ride. Why are our attempts to better ourselves usually so uneven, and why do they so frequently end in failure? There are a few reasons: Focusing on the big goal overwhelms us into inaction. It’s an article of faith in the world of personal development that you have to make big, Empire State goals. You don’t just want to dominate in your own life — you want to dominate the world. And so you draw up plans for leaving behind the 99% of schmos out there, and becoming part of the extraordinary 1% — not necessarily as measured in pure wealth, but in passion, fitness, financial independence, and number of Machu Picchu pics in your Instagram feed. But the enormity of your goals ends up overwhelming you into inaction. What we moderns call “stress” would be better termed “fear”; the physiological reaction is the same in both emotions. A big, audacious goal looks to the brain just like a saber-toothed tiger stalking us in the woods, and the idea of paying off $100K in student loan debt seems so impossible that it’s actually scary. And when our brain encounters scary, the old amygdala kicks into fight-flight-freeze mode, and you assume the position of deer-stuck-in-headlights. Big, giant goals can be awe-inspiring. But like many awe-inspiring things — a lion, a black hole, the Grand Canyon — they can also swallow you whole. We think a magic bullet will save us. Let’s say that we’re able to overcome the torpor-inducing effects of aiming for radical personal change, and we start taking action towards achieving our goals. As humans are wont to do, instead of just getting right to work doing the boring, mundane, time-tested things that will bring success, we typically start looking for “hacks” that will get us the results we want as fast as possible and with as little work as possible. We want that magic bullet that will allow us to hit our target right in the bulls-eye with just one shot. The danger of looking for a magic bullet is that you end up spending all your time searching for it instead of actually doing the work that needs to be done. You scroll through countless blog articles on productivity, in hopes of discovering that one tip that will make you superhumanly efficient. You listen to podcast after podcast from people who earn their living telling people how to make money online, hoping one day you’ll hear an insight that will unlock your businesses’ potential, so you too can make your living online, telling other people how to make a living online. You research and find the perfect gratitude journal so you can be more zen. The insidious thing about searching for magic bullets is that you feel like you’re doing something to reach your goals when in fact you’re doing nothing. Magic bullet hunting is masturbatory self-improvement. All the pleasure, without the production of metaphorical progeny. Read more at: http://tr.im/W5Flm

Sunday, November 15, 2015

The Birth of Tomiki Aikido

Kenji Tomiki was a giant in the martial arts of Japan. He was a high ranking student of both Judo's Jigoro Kano and Aikido's Morehei Ueshiba. The following article appeared in the Aikido Journal and was written by one of the first members of one of the first university aikido clubs, which gave birth to Tomiki Aikido. The full post may be read here. Enjoy.

First of all, I would like to explain how, where and why Tomiki Aikido started. It goes back to the month of April, 1958 when Waseda University approved our Aikido Club as an officially sanctioned sport club (called “Undo Bu” in Japanese), while no other universities recognized any Aikido clubs as such. Instead, all other Aikido clubs were called “Doko-Kai”, meaning a loosely organized club made up with people of the same interest. These unsanctioned sport clubs had neither the prestige nor the status of other sanctioned clubs such as Judo, Kendo, Karate, baseball, soccer, and other major sport clubs.
Prior to April, 1958, there was no Aikido club, even at Waseda University. Professor Kenji Tomiki was the Judo instructor and he taught Aikido to some members of the Waseda Judo Club before or after Judo practice. Obviously this arrangement had many limitations for developing truly well-trained Aikidokas.
I was very fortunate to be a freshman in this historical year of 1958. the Japanese school year begins in April, so that I could receive Professor Tomiki’s instructions from the club’s first day as a fully sanctioned sport club and benefit from his burning desire and profound vision of making Aikido the same as Judo, Kendo, and Karate.
One of the strict requirements attached to this official recognition by Waseda University was a stipulation of being able to measure and/or judge the progress and ability of Aikido students. In other words, any clubs belonging to the official Athletic Association must have competition of some fashion. This prerequisite was most welcome by Professor Tomiki, who had his dream to make Aikido as competitive and as internationally popular as Judo. From the very inception, he had his vision to create the method of Randori-Ho (free sparring practice) by combining the superb Aikido techniques taught by Osensei Morihei Ueshiba and the scientifically ideal educational doctrines taught by Professor Jigoro Kano, the founder of Judo (which means “Gentle Way”). Professor Tomiki frequently told us how fortunate he was to receive direct training from these two extremely talented teachers. He said, “I learned the true meaning of really profound martial skills and techniques from Ueshiba-Sensei and I learned the doctrines, innovations and educational merits from Kano-Sensei”.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Book Review: Chanpuru, Thoughts and Reflections from the Dojo

A new book from Tambuli Media is Chanpuru, Thoughts and Reflections from the Dojo by Garry Parker.

Mr. Parker describes his arrival in Okinawa as a young man as a part of his military service and his subsequent training under Takamiyagi Sensei in traditional, old style Okinawan karate.

What young man hasn't dreamed of training intensively under a master teacher for a number of years? Mr. Parker certainly was able to live that  dream. He trained under Takamiyagi Sensei directly for some six years, before he returned to the US.

Once back in his native Georgia, he was unable to find any form of karate training that resembled in any way the traditional training he enjoyed in Okinawa, so at the urging of his teacher, he opened his own dojo.

One of the unexpected consequences was that he became acquainted with others who were in basically the same boat; having tasted the real thing in Okinawa or Japan, individuals who either trained alone or in small groups.

Parker returned to Okinawa regularly for intensive personal training under his teacher and so advanced his own skills.

To celebrate the 15th anniversary of the opening of his dojo Takamiyagi Sensei came to Georgia to take part and visit. Parker's students had a chance to experience some of that authentic taste, direct from source as well.

The book also includes many short pieces by Parker on a wide variety of subjects that are related to his karate training.

I found this to be a most pleasurable read and I would recommend it to anyone.



Monday, November 09, 2015

The First American Martial Arts Film Stars

Over at Kung Fu Tea, there is an interesting article on martial arts themed mainstream American films from the 30's and 40's. The first American martial arts film stars were James Cagney, Humphrey Bogart and Katherine Hepburn!

An excerpt is below. The full article, with many entertaining film clips, may be read here.

Introduction

Upon the gracious invitation from Dr. Judkins, I thought about what I could add to a historical perspective on the martial arts. After considering various topic ideas, I settled on the topic of martial arts in the context of American cinema, in particular the classical Hollywood cinema. In academic film studies, classical Hollywood cinema refers to the period of time from the late-1920s/early-1930s (when synchronized sound replaced the practices of silent filmmaking) to the late-1950s/early-1960s (when the fallout from the infamous 1948 Supreme Court case known as the “Paramount Decree” led to changes in the way films were produced, distributed, and exhibited).  At this time Hollywood studios controlled all aspects of the filmmaking process and these efforts were conducted in accordance with a standardized “mode of production” (the standard academic text on this period remains The Classical Hollywood Cinema by David Bordwell, Janet Staiger, and Kristin Thompson).

This was the era of Gone with the Wind, Casablanca, It’s a Wonderful Life, Singin’ in the Rain, and 12 Angry Men. It was also the era of ‘G’ Men, Behind the Rising Sun, Blood on the Sun, Tokyo Joe, and Pat and Mike. If most people haven’t heard of the films on the second list, that’s to be expected.

They haven’t been canonized in the academic literature nor have they managed to secure a place in the popular cultural imagination. The history of cinema has for the most part lost track of these films, while the history of martial arts cinema has yet to even recognize them, but thanks to TV, DVDs, and the Internet, history is always a mouse click or channel change away from being (re)discovered.

In typical historical accounts of martial arts cinema, Hollywood tends to be either ignored or denunciated on the basis of a confirmation bias which precludes the possibility of there being an American inheritance of cinematic martial arts. In the first issue of the Martial Arts Studies journal, I will attempt to counter a number of theoretical claims against American cinematic representations of the martial arts throughout Hollywood history, but here, I would like to show on historical grounds that there is, indeed, an American inheritance of cinematic martial arts with a lineage that can be traced back nearly a century through a number of intriguing and ambitious films

Friday, November 06, 2015

Kimura's Training Routine

Below is an excerpt from an article that appeared at BJJ Eastern Europe describing Masahiko Kimura's training routine. He was an off the charts martial artist and his training routine reflects that.

The full article may be read here. It is accompanied by several interesting videos. Check it out! Enjoy.

Masahiko Kimura)was a Japanese judoka who is widely considered one of the greatest judoka of all time. (5 ft 7in 170 cm; 85 kg, 187 lb) He was born on September 10, 1917 in Kumamoto, Japan. In submission grappling, the reverse ude-garami arm lock is often called the “Kimura”, due to his famous victory over Gracie jiu-jitsu developer Hélio Gracie.
Masahiko Kimura began training Judo at age of 9 and was promoted to yondan (4th dan) at the age of 15 after six years of Judo. He had defeated six opponents (who were all 3rd and 4th dan) in a row. In 1935 at age 18 he became the youngest ever godan (5th degree black belt) when he defeated eight consecutive opponents at Kodokan (headquarters for the main governing body of Judo).
Kimura’s remarkable success can in part be attributed to his fanatical training regimen, managed by his teacher, Tatsukuma Ushijima. Kimura reportedly lost only four judo matches in his lifetime, all occurring in 1935. He considered quitting judo after those losses, but through the encouragement of friends he began training again. He consistently practiced the leg throw osoto gari (large outer reap) against a tree. Daily randori or sparring sessions at Tokyo Police and Kodokan dojos resulted in numerous opponents suffering from concussions and losing consciousness. Many opponents asked Kimura not to use his osoto gari.
At the height of his career Kimura’s training involved a thousand push-ups and nine-hours practice every day. He was promoted to 7th dan at age 30, a rank that was frozen after disputes with Kodokan over becoming a professional wrestler, refusing to return the All Japan Judo Championship flag, and issuing dan ranks while in Brazil.
Mas Oyama himself said that the ONLY person who trained as hard as he did… or in-fact, harder than he did, was the one and only: Masahiko Kimura…
 ...

Masahiko Kimura’s Daily Training Regime (Kimura trained 6 days a week):
1,000 Push-ups or Hindu Push-ups
Bunny Hop- 1 km
Headstand- 3 x 3 Minutes (against a wall)
Judo Practice- 100 Throws
One-Arm Barbell Lift and Press- 15 Reps each side OR Bench Press- 3 Sets: 3, 2, and 1 Reps
200 Sit-ups off Partner’s Back or Decline Sit-ups
200 Squats with Partner/Log/Barbell/Sandbag (150-200lbs)
Judo Practice- 100 Drills Submissions
500 Shuto (Knife-hand Strikes)
Judo Practice- 100 Entries
Judo Randori- “X” x 3 Minute Rounds
Practice Throws (particularly Uchi-mata) Against a Tree- 1 Hour
Additional Judo Practice- 1 Hour



Tuesday, November 03, 2015

Aikido Documentary

Below is a documentary about aikido. There is a lot of Yoshinkan Aikido in there.



Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Who Needs Fiction: Home Self Defense

My friend over at The Dao of Strategy sent me this. The full article may be read here. Enjoy.

When a man broke into Karen Dolley’s home on Thursday night, her training in medieval combat came in handy. So did her sword.

The 43-year-old woman said she awoke around midnight to the voice of a man in her house near 10th Street and Emerson Avenue on Indianapolis' Eastside.

She leapt out of bed, turned on the lights and saw him standing in her living room, she said. Then her instincts kicked in.

Dolley, standing 5-foot-6, said she immediately attacked, punching him about 10 times and cornering him in her bedroom.

She reached for her gun in a nearby drawer, but she accidentally opened the wrong drawer during the chaos of the moment, so her gun wasn’t there.

She reached for her backup weapon, a Japanese-styled sword called ninjato, which she keeps near her bed. Her intruder crouched in the bedroom as she held him at sword-point until police arrived, she said.

She called 911 and police arrived within two minutes, she said.

Police say Jacob Wessel, 30, of Greenwood, was arrested after forcing his way through the house's backdoor. Wessel, standing at 5-foot-10, was later charged with residential entry, a Level 6 felony.

“I didn’t think I was getting good blows in but my knuckles are bruised today,” said Dolley, 43, on Friday. “Hitting someone like that, it isn’t like the movies. You’re expecting it to be louder and see people jerk around, but that’s not how it happens in real life.”
This is the sword Karen Dolley, 43, used on Thursday

Dolley actually has some experience in medieval combat fighting from her days as an 18-year-old fighter in the Society for Creative Anachronism, a nonprofit for members who re-create arts and skills from Europe prior to the 17th Century, according to the organization’s website.

Dolley would don armor and engage in unchoreographed fights using rattan swords, which are safer than steel. She fought against men who stood taller than 6 feet and had 20 years experience.


Sunday, October 25, 2015

The First Non Japanese Woman Judo Black Belt

At Judoinfo.com, there is an article about Sarah Mayer, the first non Japanese woman black belt. An excerpt is below. The full article may be read here.

Sarah Mayer started Judo in London, England at the Budokwai, which had been founded by Gunji Koizumi on January 26, 1918. She visited Japan in the 1930's and studied at the Kodokan and later at the Kyoto Butokukai (which had been established in 1890 and was led by Kano's representatives). On March 1, 1935 the Japanese Times bore the headline "Foreign Woman wins Shodan at the Butokukai". Sarah Mayer was offered this rank on February 27, 1935 and was the first non-japanese woman in the world to be awarded black belt rank in Kodokan Judo.

She returned the same year to Britain, bringing Ichiro Hatta* with her, and practiced at the Budokwai for a while before setting up her own dojo in her home in Burgh Heath. Sarah was involved in the theatre and wrote a play "Hundreds and Thousands" which played at the Garratt theatre in 1939. She went on to write articles and stories for the Evening Standard.

During Ms. Mayer's stay in Japan, which spanned about two years, she wrote letters to Gunji Koizumi. The following letters are reprinted courtesy of Richard "Dicky" Bowen of the Budokwai and they reveal interesting information about early Judo training.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

The History of Xingyiquan and Yiquan


Today we have a guest post from Jonathan Bluestein on the history of Xingyiquan and Yiquan.



Xing Yi and Yi Quan – The Real Story

By Jonathan Bluestein

Throughout the ages, many martial artists created their own fighting systems, usually based on older styles they have studied prior. Over the course of the 20th century, several of these teachers became famous and notable, due to a useful combination between their
charismatic personalities and the rise of mass-media. Westerners are usually only familiar with one Chinese person to have achieved such fame – Bruce Lee. In China however, there are quite a few more people who carved their own unique path into the annals of martial history during that same century. One of these people is Wang Xiang Zhai 王薌齋 (1885-1963), the creator of Da Cheng Quan (also known as ‘Yi Quan’).

Wang’s wonderful martial art is nowadays considered a standalone style, and people discuss it as if its qualities and essence are rather new. Yet in truth, Da Cheng Quan only one of the latest evolutions in a long martial arts lineage, going back over 350 years. To gain a real understanding of what this art is about, how it came to be and why it was created the way it did, we ought to therefore examine the history of it predecessors, and the life of the man who created it.

In the picture:  Wang Xiangzhai.


Whence it came
While Da Cheng Quan finds its origins in the prominent, huge metropolis of Tianjin city, the source for its gongfu was in the remote rural regions of Shanxi province. There, during the 17th century, lived man whose name was Ji Longfeng, also known as Ji Jike (in the years 1602-1683 or 1588-1682). He is the first individual to have practiced what later Wang modified into Da Cheng Quan. The art likely existed before Ji Longfeng in one form or another, but no prior record of it remains.                  
 
At that time, only one branch of the art existed, and was known as Xin-Yi Liu-He Quan (Heart-Mind Six-Harmonies Fist). This martial art was and still is primarily passed on within the Chinese Hui – a Muslim minority. Back in the day, the Hui were not keen on sharing their art, which is why Xin Yi Liu He Quan remained almost unknown until they started teaching it publicly several decades ago.         

In the following video – very good explanations and demonstrations of traditional Xin Yi Liu He methods and techniques:



A second evolution    
 
In an unusual turn of events under these circumstances, Ji Longfeng’s student, whose name was Cao Jiwu 曹繼武, taught the art to the Dai clan. These people the Dai were a large family-based farming community, also from Shanxi. They mixed the Xin Yi Liu He Quan they learned with their already existing eclectic knowledge of martial arts, to create the system known as Dai style Liu He Xin Yi Quan.  Like the Hui, they preferred to keep the art to themselves.   

Dai Xin Yi Quan
Two generations passed. With their new skills and booming vegetable business, the fame of the Dai clan grew. Of their abilities then heard one Li Luoneng 李洛能 (1807–1888), a martial artist from Hebei province (a few hundred miles away). Back in the day, it was often very difficult to locate a great master of the martial arts and have him teach you. Li was seeking such men, and upon hearing of the great Dai gongfu, sought instruction from them. This was challenging though, since Li was a stranger from a faraway province, likely with a different accent. He was not a family member, and neither did he have a formal introduction of any sort from someone they knew. He then approached the situation with great patience, and settled alongside the Dai clan, either working for or with them in the vegetable business. Within a few years he was able to convince the Dai family to teach him, and he gradually studied their entire art.
In the picture:  Late master Wang Yinghai 王映海 - famous exponent of Dai Xin Yi during the 20th century.

A documentary featuring most of the Dai Xin Yi system:



Che style Xing Yi Quan mixed with Dai Xin Yi methods – by master Yang Fansheng (the Xin Yi Dao lineage):



The third wave  
 
After finishing his studies with the Dai clan, ‘old farmer Li’ as he was called left Taigu county, and wandered around the the Shanxi and Hebei provinces, teaching many individuals. Li was a superb teacher, and quite a few of his students gained mastery and fame with his art. But Li was in fact no longer teaching exactly what he was learning with the Dai clan. He created a new style, called Xing Yi Quan (Shape and Intention Fist). Because Li taught a lot of people, and quite a few of them became serious teachers themselves across broad geographic areas in two different provinces, his art became widespread and famous across all of China, and is very common worldwide today.    

Li did several things that distinguished his art. Firstly, he systematized it. Secondly, he added much content to it – many new methods. The original Xin Yi Liu He Quan is a very broad and diverse style, with a lot of techniques and forms. Dai Xin Yi is in comparison more concise and concentrated, with a smaller curriculum. Xing Yi was created based on the Five Fists and Twelve Animals – movements that existed before but underwent modifications, additions and re-classifications. There are also seven major additional, specific modifications that made Xing Yi stand out when compared to its predecessors:

1.      Zhan Zhuang, the standing methods for developing Structure, Nei Gong and Dan Tian methods, were now of the foremost importance for the training. These were not practiced in Dai Xin Yi, and not nearly as important in Xin Yi Liu He. The main structure and dan tian development method of the Dai clan, known as ‘Dun Hou Shi’ (Squatting Monkey posture), was omitted.

2.      The body mechanics of the art were heavily influenced by the usage and wielding of the Chinese spear. This weapon existed in the previous arts but did not affect their empty-handed practice as much. Without training with the spear, it is challenging to grasp the correct mechanics of Xing Yi Quan.

3.      San Ti Shi became the most important training and fighting stance in the art, commonly replacing Gong Bu. This stance barely existed in the practice of the previous styles, and was used more commonly in transitioning between movements. Gong Bu remained in practice and application to a lesser extent.

4.      A lot of the intricate, internal body mechanics became smaller and hidden, while many external movements became larger, compared with Dai Xin Yi.

5.      The Five Fists, and especially Pi Quan, became the core of the art.

6.      Dai Xin Yi had 10 animal movements and methods. In Xing Yi there were now 12 of them. These were extended to include more material from Li’s broader knowledge of the arts, and some animals which were prior just a single combination or pattern became short forms.

7.      The Si Ba (Four Grasps) form of Dai Xin Yi, which was inherited (and modified) from Liu He Xin Yi, disappeared from the art. Later, Li Luoneng’s students added many forms of their own.
All of the changes noted above, and several others, are key for defining Xing Yi Quan. They manifest in all the subsequent branches of this art, of which there are many. Therefore, it is safe to say that a sub-style of Xing Yi Quan ought to at least include some variety of the Zhang Zhuang, usage of San Ti Shi, the Five Fists, Twelve Animals, and Spear training. Later, many additional weapons and forms were added to the art by Li Luoneng’s students, and these differ between schools. 


Traditional Hebei-style Xing Yi Quan by master Yang Hai from Montreal (originally from Tianjin):




Traditional Shanxi-style Xing Yi Quan by various teachers from that province:




How the art came to Wang Xiang Zhai 
 
One of Li Luoneng’s most well-known students was Guo Yunshen. His name spread far and wide, and he was good friends with other notable martial arts masters of his day. Guo spent 3 years in prison for killing a man with his bare hands. He used that time productively to hone his skills in the art, and came out of prison as an even more formidable practitioner.
Wang Xiangzhai is claimed to have been Guo’s disciple, but this is unlikely. The date of Guo’s death is disputed. However, he either passed away either a short while before Wang was born, or when Wang 13 (1898). Either way, Wang could not have studied seriously with him. The version that assumes Guo was alive has Wang becoming his student in 1893, when Wang was 8 years old. Xing Yi Quan is a very sophisticated and advanced Internally-oriented system, and children do not possess the cognitive ad physical requirements for learning such a style. This truth is so known and obvious, that my own teachers rightfully refused to teach people under the age of 18. Furthermore, some say that due to old age, Guo could no longer effective demonstrate his art (though he was not very old, merely in his 60s). Also, it is acknowledged that Wang was a sickly child, was learning only method for improving his health in the beginning.      
 
An even more contradictory version of the events is given to us by Wang Xuanjie, who was one of Wang Xiangzhai’s last disciples. In his book, Wang Xuanjie claimed that his teacher Wang Xiangzhai was born in 1890 (also supported by Xiangzhai’s daughter in a book from 1982), and that Wang Xiangzhai began studying with Guo Yunshen in 1904 (age 14). Yet the simple math easily shows, Guo Yunshen was resting underground for quite a while already in 1904 (depending on whom you ask, he either passed in 1898 or 1901).

The real teacher of Wang Xiangzhai had been a disciple of Guo Yunshen, whose name was Li Bao (Li Zhenshan). It is possible that because of some technical or cultural reasons, Wang was listed officially as Guo’s student instead of Li’s. Such a thing happened commonly in traditional martial arts culture in China, and was also the norm in Guo's village. It could also be that Wang later sought to associate himself with the more famous and popular Guo. There are accounts by Wang’s disciple, a certain ‘Mr. Pan’, that Wang indeed went through the Bai Shi ceremony in front of Guo’s grave (meaning he was not really Guo’s disciple).

I am of the opinion that because Wang began studying at young age and left for the army either as a teenager or in his early 20s, he did not manage to study fully the complete curriculum of the art. Wang himself told an interviewer that “he left his teacher in 1907” - supposedly when he was 17 or 22 (though we know Guo actually passed away in 1898 or 1901, so he either left Li Bao age 17 / 22 or 'left' Guo Yunshen much earlier, as a young child, when Guo passed away). There is much evidence to this hypothesis I made (of partial instruction) later in Wang’s life. He never cares to mention the spear of Xing Yi, though it is very important and was known to Guo, or any other weapons for that matter. He never taught movement forms (taolu) beside, perhaps, some of the animal forms (it should be noted that many animals variations are single movements and combinations, not complete forms). The all-important Chicken Stepping of Xing Yi, crucial for its fighting abilities, was not something Wang taught. In his teachings there quite a few other things ‘missing’ as well from the original. Yet because Wang later acknowledged to have changed the art, it is difficult to estimate what he never studied, and what he intentionally omitted. Only the end result can be appreciated, and of that I shall write later.


In the picture: Xin Yi Liu He Quan master Jung Yung-Hwan (Korean name). This typical Xin Yi Liu He posture has him standing in Gong Bu - a stepping method now absent from Da Cheng Quan.


Wang goes travelling


A major problem we have with Wang’s life is that much of it is accounted for by himself. Wang was by no means an objective autobiographer however, and what he had written and said of himself in various articles and interviews was always clearly intended for self-promotion for him and his art – again making it difficult to judge truth from fiction.    

After his short period in the military, we know that Wang went travelling across China, in his early 30s. He could have returned to study with Li Bao or other teachers of Xing Yi Quan, but opted not to do so. In fact, he seemed more eager to fight people than study from them at that point in his life. His articles proudly tell us that “he had fought many people across China, but was only matched in fighting by two and a half of them” (he was writing of three people, one of which he considered his equal – hence, “two and a half). He also said: "Those who understand me are wise people, those who condemn meshould sit alone in the still of night to listen to their hearts"
. In modern times, such arrogant expressions would have been met with much skepticism and uproar, and a fellow such as Wang would have subsequently been visited by a multitude of hoodlums looking to test him. I assume though that since Wang was a very skilled martial artist after all, he was willing to take such chances. But back in his day, during the first part of the 20th century, with the newspaper still being a ‘fresh’ medium, people very more gullible and willing to be fed such fantastic stories. He was not criticized openly then for his somewhat outrageous claims (some of which may have been true), and incredibly even today, many are willing to turn a blind eye to his bold writing style. He himself admits that, “to his dismay”, no teacher in his city of Beijing came to challenge (‘teach’) him following his public statements.

So who were supposedly (according to Wang) the people who defeated Wang Xiang Zhai? He wrote:  "I have traveled across the country in research, engaging over a thousand people in martial combat, there have been only 2.5 people I could not defeat, namely Hunan's Xie Tie Fu, Fujian's Fang Yi Zhuang and Shanghai's Wu Yi Hui”.

1. Hunan's Xie Tie Fu 湖南解鐵夫 - In Hubei Province, Wang met Xie Tie Fu, known as “the madman”, who was a practitioner of Xin Yi Chuan 心意拳. They fought 10 times and Wang was defeated each time. Wang then suggested trying again using weapons, to which Xie replied, “Weapons are only an extension of the body. You couldn’t defeat me without a weapon, with a weapon the result will be the same.” Wang insisted and they fought again, this time using staffs. Just as Xie predicted Wang again was defeated. Ashamed he turned to leave when Xie said, “And what? You will practice three years, and then come back to fight with me again? Better stay with me. We can teach each other. I met many good fighters, but you are best of them." Wang stayed and learned from Xie for over a year, and it was very important for further development of Wang's martial art. When Wang was leaving, Xie said that he was not sure about south (because he didn’t travel there), but north of the Yangtze river there was nobody who could equal Wang.  
 
Yet there is no Liu He Xin Yi in Da Cheng Quan today. Also, although Wang mentions weapons (plural), and they supposedly fought with staffs, Wang only taught the use of the staff in later years, and only to some students.         

2. Wu Yihui - of Liu He Ba Fa fame. Possibly had some influence over Wang. But frankly - can anyone claim a connection between Liu He Ba Fa and Wang's teachings? I doubt it. Wang did not mention who won in their fights. However, since there are three people and the other two amount to 1.5 against Wang, then Wu Yihui was likely the ‘other 1’ to make it 

2.5 – meaning Wang considered him to have been superior in fighting.

3. Fang Yi Zhuang – Yong Chun White Crane (Bai He Quan). Out of 10 matches with Wang, each men ‘won’ 5 – making it ‘a draw’ – hence “only defeated by 2.5 men”. No Southern Crane methods exist in Da Cheng Quan today.


In the following videos – good examples of Southern White Crane (Bai He Quan):


Allow me to explain such stories (of fighting the masters) to those not versed in the little social intricacies of Chinese culture. The culture that Wang lived in was and still is today one that strives for social harmony. The best, most preferable solution to any social issue is to have an outcome where everyone is pleased, happy and content (better have solidarity than ‘winners’ – everybody wins is the goal). The Chinese have no trouble lying if it means that this important goal is achieved, and social harmony is obtained. In writing the accounts of the masters above, Wang Xiangzhai achieved that goal in a very typical Chinese way. He mentions the name of a Chinese master as someone who beat him on a public newspaper to help that teacher gain fame and fortune. At the same time, he himself gains respect by associating his own name with ‘the great other teacher’, and claiming to have studied from him. Both sides receive honourary mentions and publicity. Everyone are content. That is, regardless of the fact that in truth, we see nothing from the arts practiced by these gentlemen in the art later taught by Wang.      
 
Even more ironic is that all of the teachers who were hailed by Wang practiced and taught martial arts which include a very broad curriculum, with countless techniques and forms (or few extremely long forms). These broad curriculums and their forms are the same things which Wang later heavily criticized, and omitted completely from his own art. Much like Bruce Lee, Wang was all too keen on condemning and ruling out such fixed training methods, even though they were used by people under whom he claimed to have studied.

After his travels, which lasted about a decade, Wang finally settled in the already booming metropolis of Shanghai. This is likely where he came to know and interact with Liu He Ba Fa master Qu Yihui, whom I had mentioned a few paragraphs ago. At the time in China, prior to the 1930s, good martial arts teachers were far and in-between, and were difficult to locate since there were hardly any phones, newspapers or other means of mass communication and media. Such teachers were highly valued for their transmission of useful survival skills and traditional culture, and were often sought after by rich families to personal tutoring. A martial artist could have earned an incredible salary working for such people, and indeed it was during his time in Shanghai that Wang became a rich man.
He used his money wisely. At one point he went to late Guo Yunshen's village and built a new and fancy tombstone for him, in order to pay his respects, and also cement to view that he was Guo's disciple. The tombstone was unfortunately taken during the Cultural Revolution to be used as construction material. Later a new one was erected during the 1980s.

Wang's public declarations about his art, his lineage and the lesser qualities of other arts and teachers did not go unnoticed among the Xing Yi exponents of his day, even if they did not usually care to challenge him to fights directly. Some were not appreciative of the fact that Wang named his art 'Yi Quan' - a synonym for Xing Yi. He received a 'hint' (likely from Song Shirong) that he better pick another name (or else…), and that is how the art's real name, 'Da Cheng Quan', was conceived and found common usage. However, few in the West are aware of these events, which is why the art is still commonly referred to as 'Yi Quan'. 


It is implied by some that Wang’s approach got him in trouble more than once. This we can see, for instance, in the following passages, taken from the book ‘Taijiquan and the Search for the Little Old Chinese Man’, by Adam D. Frank (pages 65, 164-165). These quote two teachers’ account of Wang being kicked out the Shanghai martial arts scene:  “…On this particular summer evening, we found ourselves engrossed in a discussion of Yu Pengshi and the practice of yiquan, or “mind-intent boxing.” A disciple of yiquan’s founder Wang Xiangzhai, Yu Pengshi had been the Lu family’s neighbor. Yu introduced yiquan to martial artists in the San Francisco Bay Area in the early 1980s. His wife continued to live and teach there. When we walked through Teacher Lu’s old neighborhood, he occasionally pointed out the vifilla where Yu Pengshi had lived. “His gongfu was just OK,” said Lu. “He was a disciple of Wang Xiangzhai. But Wang Xiangzhai was a braggart. While he was living in Shanghai in the thirties, he bragged a lot, but he was finally invited to leave town by some of the other teachers.” The sort of criticism that Lu directed at Wang Xiangzhai and Yu Pengshi often colored our practice sessions. I usually refrained from criticizing other arts and teachers; Lu simply spoke his mind…… one JTA member who grew up next to the disciple of Wang’s who brought yiquan to the United States simply says, “Wang Xiangzhai chui niu” (literally, “to blow like a cow”; to brag). This teacher went on to say that Wang was basically hounded out of Shanghai in the 1930s by some of the other martial arts teachers”.


In the picture:  Wang Xiangzhai (center) with his disciple Li Jianyu (left) 见宇 and their friend Zhou Bingqian 周秉 (right).

One of the few people who did challenge Wang openly was Kenichi Sawai from Japan, at the time said to have been a Judo 5th dan and Kendo 6th dan – certainly skilled in those arts. He was soundly defeated by Wang, and accepted as his student afterwards. But Wang did not care to teach Sawai himself, and for the most part Sawai learned the art from his student, Yao Zongxun. A few years later Kenichi returned to Japan, where he taught that art as his interpretation, called ‘Tai Ki Ken’. At the time, Wang and Yao’s association with Sawai, who was a colonel in the Japanese military, gave them social and physical immunity from harm. But such links were also heavily frowned upon by most Chinese, and consequently Yao spent some time in prison in the following years because of such connections. Others in the community even went as far as to refer to Wang's art as 'Traitor Fist' (Hànjiān Quán 汉奸拳) - an extremely negative and insulting derogatory term. This is despite the fact it is not known whether Wang simply accepted Sawai into his school, chose to cooperate with the Japanese or was coerced into such actions against his will. Given the horrendous acts of Japan against China during World War II, it was to be expected that anyone even remotely suspected of having ties with the Japanese to have angered a lot of people. Personally, I think Wang cannot be harshly judged on this account.


After Wang left Shanghai for either this or that reason, he came to Tianjin, another metropolis, in close proximity to Beijing the capital. Both these cities hosted the greatest number of famous masters in China at the time. One of the first things Wang did in Tianjin was to host a big banquet in honor of Zhang Zhaodong - a very well known teacher of Xing Yi Quan and Bagua Zhang. This was another smart financial and political move on Wang's behalf. Zhang was thankful for the way Wang treated him and for the money Wang bestowed upon him. In return for Wang's kindness, Zhang did a few things to repay him. Firstly, he openly declared that he supported Wang's claim of having been Guo Yunshen's disciple (Guo was technically Zhang's gongfu uncle). Secondly, he took a few pictures with Wang alongside other teachers to solidify his show of support. Thirdly, since Wang had no students in his new place of residence, Zhang sent ten of his students to study under him. Their names were:  Zhao Enqing, Gu Xiaochi, Ma Qichang, Deng Zhisong, Miao Chunyu, Zhang Zonghui, Zhang Entong, Qiu Zhihe, Zhao Fengyao, Zhao Zuoyao. Only three of them persisted with Wang in the long run, and received customary names from him:  Zhao Daoxin (Zhao Enqing), Zhang Daode (Zhang Entong) and Zhao Dahong (Zhao Fengyao). Zhao Daoxin and Qiu Zhihe (the latter never got a special name from Wang), are often praised as great examples for masters 'groomed' by Wang, especially since they created they own martial arts systems (Xin Hui Zhang and Luo Xuan Quan, respectively). However, it has been pointed out that the creation of 'systems' with 'forms' and a fixed curriculum is in great contradiction with the teachings of Wang, who wanted to "emphasize the Yi (Intent and Nei Gong) and do away with the Xing (excess of shapes, forms and fixed techniques). Like many things relating to Wang, this subject too is highly controversial. There are those who claim that these two people actually told their students they did not learn much from Wang (Zhang Zhaodong was their main teacher), while others consider them to be prime example of Wang's teachings.



In the following videos – Cui Fushan (the older gentleman), grand-student of Wang Xiangzhai and student of Bu Enfu, demonstrating good gongfu. Please read the video descriptions for some context:




The art changes a fourth time     
 
Initially Wang went about with his Xing Yi like any other traditionalist in the art. However, since he liked to pick up fights he soon found out that despite his talent, and perhaps because he was not taught the whole thing, it not always worked combatively the way he hoped for. Being practical he looked at his own personal weaknesses and went through a long and slow evolution. In the beginning he still taught Xing Yi the way he learned it, Five Fists and Twelve Animals included. But over the years, and especially following his experiences with the masters mentioned before, his own practice and teaching began to change.      
 
Because Wang was already skilled in his art, having trained in it for decades, he did not need to work on developing his structure. His body already contained the essence of the style, to the level that he had learned and understood it. His own practice was then focused on the general movement-vectors and the momentum of various movements, with the patterns being more casual and less strict. In Wang's words, emphasizing the Yi  at the expense of the Xing. However, the original art was called Xing Yi for a reason! That both aspects of the art were equally important.

Late master Wang Xuanjie performing a Jian Wu of Da Cheng Quan:


Wang does not tell us what he felt did not work for him, personally. But he was enthusiastic on sharing and proclaiming “what was wrong” with others who studied, practiced and taught the art.    
 
The name Xing Yi is comprised of two characters:  Xing – Shape, and Yi – Intent or Will. The Xing refers to the external bodily postures, the many techniques and the forms. The Yi refers to the use of intention and the nei gong. Wang strongly felt that “people became too focused on the practice of Xing, and neglected to work on their Yi”. Hence the art’s first name – ‘Yi Quan’ (omitting the Xing). In saying that, he was referring to his own students as well. He uses this argument to justify the many changes he made to the art, most notable among them being:

- The practice of Zhan Zhuang became more important than anything else, and the length of time spent standing had been extended to the upwards of two hours. This was rarely if ever done before in Xing Yi. In fact, many Xing Yi teachers advocated reducing the amount of time spent standing as one’s skill increases.

- In Xing Yi there is the minor practice of Shi Li 試力 (‘Feeling the Power’) – several movement patterns that represented general and simplified circles and vectors of power. These were used to teach one to transition the martial structure developed with Zhan Zhuang into combative usage, and ease the learning of more intricate mechanics contained within the 12 Animals. The Shi Li are concept-based rather than techniques based, meaning they teach how to move and react, and not necessarily how to apply a specific fighting method. Wang made the Shi Li the focal point of the art’s moving practice.

- The Five Fists and Twelve Animals were all reduced into simplified forms of Shi Li themselves. Combinations and Forms were completely eliminated, and turned into repetitive Shi Li drills that captured what Wang considered ‘the essence’ of the fist or animal. Later in his life, even the Shi Li of the animals were done with, as Wang gradually took on an even more reductionist approach to his training and teaching. Some of Wang’s students and grand-students had to later re-add their own versions of the 12 animals Shi Li, since the originals were lost.

Like many teachers, Wang made the choice of teaching what he felt worked for him at his level of understanding and martial development. However, we should remember that Wang eventually acquired his excellent skills by practicing traditional Xing Yi Quan most of his life. For better or worse, most of Wang’s students did not receive the instruction he himself had gotten, but were taught Wang’s idea how the art will be best manifested. In doing this, Wang was the exception in the Xing Yi Quan community. As can be seen in the following lineage chart which I created, the art survived through many lineages for at least 7 generations since Li Luoneng, usually with far less pronounced modifications than those Wang made.

When people discuss the changes Wang had done to his original art, often another key element is missed. The art was greatly affected by Wang’s eventual omission of the Santi posture, and shifting the preference to wider combative stances. This is because:

1. San Ti Shi makes Xing Yi Quan a style that specializes in attacking the opponent’s center of mass and gravity through a narrow corridor of motion. Shifting to wider stances changed this quality.

2. As a result, the elbows, which Xing Yi prefers to keep closer to the center much of the time, were now often raised and went sideways in practice and application; to accommodate for the new combative positions.

3. Also changing was the hallmark of Xing Yi, of using vertical forward-driven circles – the power vector of Xing Yi’s most essential method, Pi Quan. This trait was Xing Yi’s legacy from the body method of wielding a spear. With both Santi and the old Pi Quan gone, these circles were altered as well, becoming less forward-driven, and used more for manipulating the opponent’s structure and less for hitting.

While it is true that in Da Cheng Quan, a shorter San Ti is used for Zhan Zhuang and some applications, it is not the core of the style, but rather is Hun Yuan Zhuang (Cheng Bao Zhuang).

Some of Wang’s students are credited as having been influenced by Western Boxing (Bu Enfu and Yao Zongxun). It was actually Wang that sent them to learn Boxing and compete in it. This art was considered a novelty in China during the 19th and 20th centuries, and was often a representation, together with Wrestling, as a representation of the ‘white man’s strength’. Thus, many glorification stories were told of Chinese masters defeating Western boxers and wrestlers. Various Chinese practitioners who came from styles wherein footwork was slightly lacking were astounded by the mobility of boxers and inspired by them. Such was the case later with Bruce Lee, who incorporated boxing footwork and concepts into his Jeet Kune Do. I tend to believe that Wang himself was also at least moderately influenced by the footwork and rhythm of Western Boxing, even though he never cared to admit it. He certainly received some other influences from boxing as well, as described here by his student (such as adopting a 'guard position' with the hands in fighting). Wang's daughter, Yufang, confirmed this influence in private conversations with my friend, master Yang Hai, when she was alive (she passed away in 2013).     
This influence is seen to the largest extent in the Da Cheng practice method known as Jian Wu 健舞 (literally: ‘Health Dance’). That practice is essentially what a boxer would call ‘Shadow Boxing’. The practitioner would move spontaneously between any of the postures known to him, reflecting either natural flow of energy without the body or going through an imaginary fight with an opponent. Not only is the method itself and the rhythm in it reminiscent of Boxing, but also the wider, higher and more ‘square’ footwork, which often floats around on the balls of one’s feet. Although the two methods obviously differ in their mechanics and in some of their purposes, the general movement concept is very similar.            
This is further easily witnessed in Da Cheng’s preference for diagonal stepping lines, versus Xing Yi’s liking of linear stepping. Also, in Wang’s changing of Xing Yi’s forward Plow-Stepping to the diagonal, higher and less rooted but more mobile Friction-Stepping (Mócā Bù 摩擦步).

In the following video – one of the best exponents of the art in our time, master Cui Ruibin, performing a Jian Wu:



Speaking of which - there are also claims that Wang was influenced by Bagua Zhang, and those who would go as far as to claim that “there is Bagua in Da Cheng Quan”. There is little to support that idea, apart from minor similar stepping methods. Wang himself never mentioned it as far as I know. He even admits to have only met Dong Haichuan and Cheng Tinghua (the founder of Bagua and one his his disciples) when he was a child. Even that claim is problematic, since Wang was born in 1885 and Dong passed away about 3 years prior. Those who claim Wang may have studied Bagua with Cheng Tinghua will be disappointed to find out that he died in 1900, when Wang was only 15 years old.

It should be noted and re-emphasized that by the time Wang made those profound changes and essentially created his own style, he was likely over 40 years old, have trained since childhood and travelled across China, testing his skills. There is no question that he was enough of an authority over his own material to be making such decisions. The art had also proven itself, at least in terms of fighting, beyond Wang’s own tales, since several of his students and grand-students such as Zhao Daoxin and members of the Yao family were known as fighters. Later on, through Yu Yongnian’s medical research (and fine book), the methods of Wang were also shown to be very beneficial for the treatment of various illnesses.

Wang Binkui 王斌魁 performs Xingyi Quan and Yi quan:



A grand legacy  
 
In 1962, following the death of his wife, Wang became ill from grief. The illness increased in severity, and in 1963 he was no longer teaching. That year, he suffered from cerebral vascular rupture (brain hemorrhage) as a side-effect of medicine he used to receive regularly. Soon after another delivery of the medicine by his grandson, he fell dying into his arms. He was 78 years old. 

Even though I believe it is likely that Wang did not study Xing Yi Quan fully, that does not detract from his great achievement. On the contrary. From a limited based in his mother art he continued to evolve, studying under more teachers and expanding his skills and understanding, until his efforts yielded a fantastic system for fighting and health cultivation. Wang’s case is similar to the Okinawans, who had originally studied southern-Chinese martial arts, usually to a limited extent, but were able to make the most of what they learned and turn it into the immensely successful traditions of Karate. Like them, Wang proved that one needs not necessarily learn a full curriculum in order to come up with substance and quality. These may differ from the original, but can be no less worthy.

Wang’s open teachings of Zhan Zhuang methods helped spread his art far and wide, and consequently raised the interest in Xing Yi, Dai Xin Yi and Xin Yi Liu He as well. Previously, though very beneficial for one’s health and the healing of diseases, Zhang Zhuang were only known to Daoist monks and a relatively small group of martial artists across China. From Wang’s teachings they became a folk health practice, and eventually entered countless parks, communities and even hospitals. Wang’s grand-student, late master Yu Yongnian, was a doctor, and conducted many studies of the medical benefits of Zhan Zhuang, of which he published a book. In recent decades, many other martial arts have begun adopting Zhan Zhuang methods as well. I have seen practitioners and teachers of styles as varied and diverse as Chen and Yang styles of Taiji Quan, Bak Mei and Pak Hok Pai practicing them and claiming them as their own, although historically such methods were never a part of their curriculum. There are also countless ‘Qi Gong teachers’ who instruct on Zhan Zhuang (often poorly) as part of what they teach. 


In the picture:  Dr. Yu Yongnian, one of Wang’s notable students, teaching Zhan Zhuang to a group of people.

During Wang’s life but mostly following Wang’s death, his art also re-influenced many practitioners of Xing Yi Quan, who used its more Yi-focused approach to training and fighting to augment the understanding of what they were already practicing. My own Xing Yi lineage bears such influences.

Several of Wang’s students and grand-students were known as fighters, and Da Cheng is becoming increasingly popular among exponent of MMA and San Da as a practice to augment and hone their fighting skills. Practitioners of Da Cheng, following in Wang’s footsteps, were also among the first among the Chinese traditionalists to fight in modern rings and cages during the late 20th and early 21st centuries.

Today, Da Cheng Quan is more popular than ever, essentially being taught worldwide. Though I feel that some schools of it have an almost cultish quality to the way in which they approach their practice, nonetheless he majority of that community is made of a very positive crowd. Often, the art succeeds in attracting people who otherwise may have not considered the martial arts at all, due to its unique character and greater focus on meditation. Indeed, not everyone are willing to take on a ‘complete package’ such as offered by a traditional style, like Xing Yi, which demands much in terms of the extensive curriculum.

Wang was not foolish in his actions, and he was a skilled martial artists and teacher. The system he created based on very personal and perhaps 'lacking' interpretation of Xing Yi, with the addition of insight from much research and experience, yielded a very robust and excellent style, useful for fighting and health-promotion alike. His approach to martial arts was sound and practical, and albeit his arrogance he managed to teach well quite a few
distinguished teachers and pass on to them a great deal of knowledge. His version of Xing Yi reverberated among many schools of the Internally-oriented arts in China, and inspired and added to many schools of Xing Yi later down the road. Wang and many of his students and grand-students have also taken the practice of Zhan Zhuang to a high level not commonly achieved by teachers of Xing Yi, and had shown through their perseverance what may be achieved with such methods. Overall, I have a lot of appreciation for his art and teachings. I just wish that its history and promotion were more accurate, and not so reliant on newspaper accounts written by the man of himself. Had Wang lived today, I would have definitely gone studying with him, but perhaps would not have made him a role model as a human being. Regardless, the name of his art - Da Cheng Quan 大成拳 – ‘Great Achievement Boxing’ - befits what he had achieved in his lifetime and what came about through the decades based on what he had taught.


______________________________________________

The author of this article, Jonathan Bluestein, can be contacted directly at:  jonathan.bluestein@gmail.com . Shifu Bluestein is a practitioner and teacher of Xing Yi Quan, Pigua Zhang and Jook Lum Southern Mantis. These arts are taught by him at his academy in Israel, and also in seminars abroad. Shifu Bluestein is also a best-selling author on the martial arts. Be sure to check out his popular books:  Research of Martial Arts and The Martial Arts Teacher



You may also subscribe to shifu Bluestein's youtube channel, which is regularly update with rare and fascinating martial arts videos



All rights of this article are and the pictures within it are reserved to Jonathan Bluestein ©. No part of this article may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission, in writing, from Jonathan Bluestein. Jonathan may be contacted directly via email:  jonathan.bluestein@gmail.com